All posts by sunrise-saltbox

Shade Plants Put on a Show!

Shade plants offer much more color and variety than most of us imagine. Your best bet is to stick with plants that note full or part shade. We find good definitions to be 0-2 hours of sun for shade and 2-4 for part shade, and like some light and bright tones to punctuate shade.

Almost all spring bulbs work in areas around trees, since they will bloom before the tree leafs out. 

For lots of color in shade plants through the season, consider bright annual Impatiens. They’re especially great in two or three rows to create a vivid band of color on the front border. Begonias love shade, too.

Variegated Leaf Shade Plants

A great way to achieve long color in shade gardens is plants with variegated leaves. Mix in some Hostas with large areas of white in their leaves – there are some lovely limes, too. A large blue-green elegans is beloved as a great focal point. Other bright leaves include some ferns, especially the Japanese varieties. The delicacy of ferns’ leaves add beauty in shade plants, and Solomon Seal fills and spreads nicely (great with Dicentra, which dies back in heat). There are probably more varieties than you know – do some searching. One grass, Hakonechloa macra aureola, in gold, grows in shade, as does variegated Lamium and Brunnera with striking leaves and small blue flowers. Caladiums are always stunning – try them with dragon-wing begonia for drama –and most Coleus prefer part-shade.

Spring and Summer Shade Plants that Flower

In the spring, Dicentra, pink or white bleeding heart, tiny flowers on arching stems, are gorgeous and seed freely. Primroses may bloom all summer in cooler areas, and do a spring and fall show in others – they’re small, so plan them at the front. Lily of the Valley has graced gardens for hundreds of years, Pulmonaria has patterned leaves and lovely spring flowers and  Cordyalis brings in yellow accented by ferny leaves.

In early summer, Huechera (coral bells) steal hearts. Older varieties flower in pinks to reds, and newer ones offer purple, orange and lime foliage (but tend to have rather non-descript white flowers). Heucherella and Tiarella (foam flower) are smaller versions of Heuchera with vivid leaves.

Astilbes follow in many pinks plus white, red and lavender, love part shade and provide tall foamy flowers – fertilize them throughout the season and leave the dried flowers on for great winter accent. Aruncus (goat’s beard) is a tall display of foamy white flowers in June and July. Many varieties of Hemerocallis will grow in quite a bit of shade, and Tiger, Oriental, and Asian lilies do well as partial shade plants.

Fall and Winter Shade Plants

Hostas bloom in purple or white, and tall scarlet lobelias are a great accent at the back of the garden.  Sedum Autumn Joy is great in partial shade.

Helleborus, or Lenten Rose, blooms between February and April depending on your Zone.

Shrubs

Kerria Japonica is a true shade plant. Many Hydrangeas, some small decorative maples and Summersweet (needs lots of water) thrive in part-shade.

It’s fun to discover how much you can do in shade, and shade gardens look cool and inviting whatever the temperature.

Get Your Garden Back to its Roots by Incorporating Native Plants!

Lured by the gorgeous new offerings each season in glossy garden catalogues and magazines, you might be tempted to choose plants not well suited to your area – an expensive and time-consuming error. High-maintenance plants, artificially kept going by herculean efforts and costly fertilizers, can also be discouraging as they often do not survive.

More and more, amateur and professional gardeners are turning to native plants to enhance their outdoor spaces.

But just what is a native plant? A native plant is defined as one that exists naturally in a given area and is indigenous to that specific region or ecosystem – one that has not been introduced by humans.These can include trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, mosses and groundcovers. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, the Douglas-fir tree is a native plant. English holly, which can be found extensively there also, is not native to the region because it was introduced by humans. It is, however, native to England!

Incorporating native plants in a gardening scheme does not require ripping out existing plantings. Natives can be gently introduced to a thriving garden, with benefits all around:

  • As they are adapted to the region’s soil conditions and climate changes, natives are
    much lower maintenance
  • They require much less water
  • Natives generally do not become invasive
  • They encourage wildlife to visit and provide a safe habitat for birds and butterflies
  • Natives thrive without fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

CHOOSING NATIVE PLANTS

Here are a few tips to get you started with native plants:

  • Consult nature. What is growing in your local parks and wild areas? If you need to, get help with identification from books, a knowledgeable friend or your area’s Master Gardener program.
  • Connect up with local native plant societies. Nearly every region has one and they offer a wealth of information and tips. Most have extensive websites with plant lists, photographs and planting instructions.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a reputable nursery. Many specialty nurseries now are dedicated to native plants and will welcome your inquiries into what plants they recommend.

Once you have an understanding of what the native plants in your area are, you can begin to plan where they will best be utilized in your own environment.

Remember, trees and shrubs form the basic structure in any garden plan. Are there natives you can use to define a new garden space or create a needed privacy barrier? What about colorful wildflowers? Is there a section of your garden where the sight of gaily swaying columbines will brighten the view? Do you have children that would delight in avian and insect visitors?

Consider the locations and then choose plants based on which soil conditions, light and water availability you have which most duplicate their natural environment. Then sit back and let them take over.

Soon, you’ll hardly remember how your garden was before you decided to “go native”!

Butterfly Gardens: Bring Winged Beauties to Your Yard

Butterfly gardens provide food and sanctuary for many vibrant species of Lepidoptera. This type of garden can be planted in even the busiest urban location. Offering even a small habitat can help support the butterfly population in your area. A container garden consisting of a few carefully selected bushes and flowering plants may be all it takes to attract these winged visitors to your home. If you have more space available, you can plan a butterfly garden complete with a walking path and outdoor seating for maximum enjoyment.

Selecting & Caring For Host Plants

Indigenous plants are often the best choice for butterfly gardens. These shrubs and flowers are simple to grow since they are already compatible with the soil type, texture, and pH in your area. This means you will only have to worry about ensuring adequate sunlight, water, and drainage for your plants. You may also consider adding compost once a year to replace any lost nutrients. Don’t use pesticides.

Visit your neighborhood garden center for advice on nectar producing plants that do well in your zone. Bear in mind that some are perennials in the Southern U.S. but must be replanted each year in colder parts of the continent. Here are some frequently suggested plant/flower species (both native and imported) that grow well in many different zones:

Aster

Bee Balm

Burning Bush

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Weed

Chrysanthemum

Clover

Columbine

Dandelion

Goldenrod

Honeysuckle

Joe-Pye Weed

Marigold

Purple Coneflower

Shasta Daisy

Shrubby Cinquefoil

Verbena

Wild Violet

Yarrow

Zinnia

Some of these plants, such as clover, double as food plants for caterpillars. You can also deliberately grow hosts for specific butterfly larvae. Use milkweed to supply a breeding ground for monarchs. Dill, parsley, and other members of the carrot family will attract female swallowtails that are ready to lay their eggs. Watching caterpillars grow and change is one of the most interesting experiences provided by a home butterfly garden.

Common Butterfly Species

Expect to see both local and migrating species of butterflies pass through your garden depending on the time of year and your location. The larger and more varied your plant selection is, the greater number and variety of Lepidoptera you will see. However, some plants (like the aptly named butterfly bush) will attract many different types of butterflies at one time. Here are some of the species that frequent North American butterfly gardens:

Alfalfas

Buckeyes

Cabbage Whites

Fritillaries

Goatweeds

Hackberries

Hairstreaks

Monarchs

Morning Cloak

Nymphs

Painted Ladies

Pearl Crescents

Question Marks

Red Admirals

Skippers

Snout Noses

Sulphurs

Swallowtails

Tawny Emperors

Viceroys

Special Considerations

This type of garden will attract much more than just butterflies. Hummingbirds are welcome visitors as well. Bees and wasps will also come to drink from your ready supply of nectar. When this happens, move slowly and remain calm. These insects are foraging far away from their home nests and unlikely to sting humans. They help pollinate flowers and are a natural feature of all butterfly gardens.

Fragrant Gardens Can Make Your Life Heavenly

Fragrant gardens are becoming very popular with home owners. Human beings are very sensitive to smells, both pleasant ones and unpleasant ones. We use all kinds of means to dispel the smells from our bathrooms from using spray scents to deodorants to ceiling exhaust fans. At the same time, the number of fragrances available in perfumes is enormous, not just for women anymore, but also for men.

You can also enjoy a fragrant garden all year long, and you can vary the fragrances to your own taste. If you want to bring flowers into your house, you may scent the house with roses one day, lilies the next, and lilacs the next, as you please. Besides, you can grow artemesia or lemon thyme whose pungency and tang provide a counterpoint for the fragrance of the flowers.

We plant vegetables in our gardens to help meet our needs for food; in the same manner, a fragrant garden can be food for the soul. When we smell the first viburnum in the spring, it fills our hearts not only with joy but with hope: summer is on the way. Consider planting a fragrant garden. It will make your life better.

Planning Your Fragrant Garden

You’ll want to place your fragrant garden as close to the house as possible so you can enjoy the fragrance inside the house as well as out. If you can plant near a wall or a patio, the reflected heat will intensify the fragrance of many plants, which will increase your enjoyment. If you put your garden in the open yard, the wind will be likely to blow the scent away from you. An enclosed place will permit the fragrance to collect and intensify.

Bugs, etc.

The more fragrant your fragrant garden, the more insects it will attract. If you have someone in your family who has serious allergies, you’ll need to put the garden in a place where this person can avoid the insects. You need to factor in that there will be more bees and bugs around scented plants.

Seasons

You need to take into account when the flowers will bloom in your fragrant garden. For example, a clematis will be likely to bloom in early spring as will daffodils and tulips. If you’re planting a fragrant garden at a summer house, you may completely miss these. On the other hand, if you plant only summer-blooming flowers around the house you live in year-round, you’ll be missing some fragrant seasons. If you plan carefully, your fragrance season can last from frost to frost.

Planting for Your Own Region

Before planning your fragrant garden, talk to a gardener in a local gardening store. He will be able to help you choose those plants that will grow best in your own area. You might consider flowering trees like magnolia as well as shrubs like mock-orange that bring their own fragrance. Then there are vines like wisteria and perennials like primroses. In addition, look at annuals and bulbs such as hyacinths, Irises, Freesias, and paper whites for spring fragrance. For summer, consider lavender, lilies, nicotiana, to name only a few. A visit to your gardening store will inspire you!

And the Winners are… 2018 Plants of the Year!

HOW THE PLANT OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED

Candidates for the Proven Winners’ Plant of the Year are judged stringently by growers, retailers and home gardeners against the five criteria: Easy to Grow, Iconic, Readily Available, Perfect for Baskets or Containers and Outstanding Landscape Performance. Plants are selected that are easy for everyone to grow and deliver a clearly exceptional garden performance.

After several rounds of voting, the winners are announced to growers across North America one year in advance to ensure they have plenty of time to grow the millions of plants needed to satisfy the demand at retail. As a result, home gardeners can easily find a retailer who carries the winning Plants of the Year.


ANNUAL OF THE YEAR: Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunia hybrid

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ will quickly grow into a blanket of sparkling purple flowers in your landscape. Since it is so vigorous, you won’t need many plants to make an impact. You’ll love how they look when you grow them in hanging baskets and upright containers. Supertunia® Bordeaux™ play well with others if you’re into playing matchmaker.

  • Masses of vibrant color
  • Non-stop bloom from spring to frost
  • Self-cleaning flowers—NO deadheading needed
  • Versatility of use in containers and landscapes
  • Broad color range to suit every style
  • Remarkable vigor and disease resistance

Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers.  They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds.  They have medium to large sized flowers. Whether you’re looking to add a mass of color to your garden beds or create impressive containers with curb appeal, Supertunia® Petunias are the best choice for your sunny landscape. You’ll be amazed how green your thumbs are when you grow these vigorous, reliable flowers.


PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR: Primo™ ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ tend to grow best and have the prettiest coloration when grown in part sun, meaning 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. In very warm climates, full shade may be necessary. In cooler zones, it will grow in full sun if given adequate moisture. Primo ‘Black Pearl’ will keep its dark coloration even in full sun conditions.

  • Jet black, glossy, ruffled foliage
  • Long lasting, light pink cut flowers
  • Attracts pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Vigorous, densely mounding shape
  • Versatile – grows in landscapes and containers
  • Naturally heat and humidity tolerant
  • Measures 8-10” tall x 26-30” wide
  • Native perennial for zones 4-9

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ can be grown in containers, but keep in mind that it grows notably larger than standard varieties, so give it plenty of room to show off. If growing it on its own, choose a container that is at least 10” in diameter and 8” deep. If you plan to pair Primo ‘Black Pearl’ with other plants in a combination recipe, you’ll need a much larger pot, at least 18” in diameter.


LANDSCAPE PLANT OF THE YEAR: Spilled Wine® Weigelia

Rich, velvety foliage forms a sumptuous textural backdrop for a bright floral bouquet of magenta pink blossoms that sing every spring. An updated, more petite look for weigelia, it’s the perfect choice for foundation plantings, edging landscape beds and planting en masse. Full-bodied looks and an easy constitution—that’s Spilled Wine® weigelia.

  • Dark wine red foliage all season
  • Loads of vibrant magenta pink flowers in spring
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Not preferred by deer
  • Low mounding shape
  • Adaptable to most soil types
  • Grows in large containers and landscape beds
  • Grows 2-3’ tall x 2-4’ wide
  • Reliably hardy in zones 4-8

Like a complex wine, Spilled Wine Weigelia embodies a certain richness and intensity that may look complicated, but there’s really nothing to it. It even adapts to most soil types, including clay. Giving it 6+ hours of sunlight, average water (about an inch per week), and a bit of slow release tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring will do the trick.


Learn more about our National Plant of the Year program at www.nationalplantoftheyear.com.

Recipe for a Successful Garden

Enter the kitchen garden:

A garden is as distinct and individual as your tastes will allow. Whether you like it hot and spicy-with herbs and peppers that sing with flavor-or subtle blends of flavorful veggies and culinary herbs, it is easier than you think to have success in the garden and in the kitchen.

Today’s kitchen gourmet is more likely to trek to the backyard garden than to the local market for fresh rosemary, peppers or cilantro. Where else can you be assured of a variety of fresh produce that is designed around your palette?

There are three elements essential to a successful planting: location, drainage and spacing

Location:
Most vegetable and herb gardens need a minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight for peak performance. The ideal exposure would be a southwestern or a southern exposure. That would mean the garden would be bathed in sunlight from around 10 am till 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

We suggest using a rectangular shape for your garden bed. By keeping your dimensions to a 4′ x 8′ plot you will insure an easy accessibility to your garden for weeding, watering and harvesting. You might use a flexible garden hose to approximate your final garden. Just as a good carpenter will measure twice in order to cut just once, an experienced gardener will spend a week or so in gauging the available sunlight over the terrain in order to establish the best available location.

Once your location is secured, then it is time to address the issue of drainage. Almost all culinary herbs and vegetables benefit from good drainage. A garden bed is built, as in built up, to insure the best possible conditions. This type of gardening is known as a “raised” garden. Raised beds can be created quickly, often in a single Saturday afternoon.

Use wooded materials such as non-treated pine or cedar, wall-stone or edgers to frame your bed. This should result in an increase of anywhere from 6-8″ from ground zero. Once your materials are obtained and your spot is properly marked (use limestone), turn the existing soil to a depth of six to eight inches. A couple of passes with a borrowed rototiller will do the trick. If you are digging by hand, remove this soil and mix it with compost or manure, peat moss and top soil to create a rich cake-like consistancy. Turn all the materials in a large pile by fork and shovel and fill your now assembled frame. Attempt to mound towards the center. Drainage gaps can be used on the corner and center sections.

Grade your soil smooth of rocks, lumps and debris

Then it is time to lay out your plant material. Pay close attention to the spacing requirements listed on the plant tags. Plant for maturity. Our sample bed of roughly 32 square feet should hold at least 24 plants properly spaced. Depending on your needs, you might start with one or two plants of a variety. This should give you plenty of material for a wide variety of meal possibilities. With proper plant selection, it should be enough produce to spark neighborhood get togethers throughout the summer months. Bon Appetit!

Not enough room? Consider the contained garden:

Whether it is a situation where there is a shortage of a sunny spot or maybe you are simply limited in space. You can still take advantage of the information above. Just adapt it to the container(s) and space

available to you. This is a great way for apartment or condo dwellers to maintain a small culinary garden.

Whisky barrels, terra cotta planters or even window boxes can produce a bounty of herbs, vegetables and flowering material. The key to success remains in light, drainage and spacing. We’d love to introduce you to the many possibilities of container gardening.

Children in the Garden

A garden is a wonderful place for a child to experience the natural world and learn how things grow. It is a place of wonder and surprise that excites the imagination as it teaches valuable lessons about the environment, responsibility, and discipline. With a little planning and effort-and a little help from you-your child can create his or her own garden world to enjoy all summer long.

Creating a Child’s Garden

Give your child his or her own special space: Rope off a corner of the family garden, prepare a separate plot, or set up a rain-barrel planter. Just be sure to place the garden where it will get plenty of sun, at least 4-6 hours per day. Help your child create a simple plan, using kid-friendly plants, such as large colorful flowers, tasty vegetables, and interesting plants that grow quickly. Great beginner plants include morning glories, zinnias, sunflowers, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, corn and tomatoes.

While buying pre-finished plants will the job easier, consider starting the garden from seed. Winter is the perfect time for planning the garden and for selecting and planting the seeds.

In early spring, help your child prepare the garden bed. Children will appreciate the process if they understand a very basic concept: The soil is the seedling’s lunch box. This is where the plant will get all the food, water and nutrients it needs for proper growth. Preparing the soil will teach your child an important lesson in the rewards of hard work.

Keep it Fun!

The Potato Volcano is a great gardening and recycling project to try. Or, if your child likes private hideaways, you can help him or her create a pole-bean teepee or a sunflower clubhouse. Whatever project your child chooses, be sure to keep things fun. Let gardening open a whole new world for your child-one filled with earthworms and flowers, sunshine and showers!

10 Romantic Flowers and their Meanings

A bouquet of flowers is the perfect gift for a loved one, friend or family member.

Asides from being aesthetically pleasing, each flower has a different symbolic meaning.

So if you’re considering buying some flowers as a romantic gesture, what do you need to know before you purchase?

 

1. Yellow Daffodil

The Yellow Daffodil represents new beginnings. It is also referred to as a lucky symbol of future success.

If you’d like to wish someone good luck, this is an ideal gift to give.

romantic flowers and their meaning

 

2. Blue Violet

These beautiful, hot-hued blooms are said to represent trustworthiness.

The Blue Violet flower symbolises faith, affection, intuition and love. If you’re looking for romantic flowers, blue violets make a wonderful gift.

romantic flowers

3. Blue Salvia

The Blue Salvia plant is connected to healing. This flower specie represents wisdom, a long life and good health.

It’s common for those recovering from an ailment to receive this plant.

romantic flowers

4. White Lilac

This beautiful flower is an elegant option for a bouquet and boasts an appealing fragrance.

The lilac’s colour represents the meaning of the flower – purity and youthful innocence.

romantic flowers

 

5. Gardenia

These romantic flowers are generally gifted to those experiencing a secret love.

Present them to someone close to you who you truly care about.

romantic flowers

6. Forget-Me-Not

Forget-Me-Nots are an ideal option to gift to a loved one.

These plants imply true love, and just as the name implies, they are given in the hope they (or the sender) will never be forgotten. Many believe this plant to signify an authentic love brimming with memories.

romantic flowers

 

7. Sweet Alyssum

This enjoyable bloom boasts a fragrant scent and a serene, spiritual energy, which is said to provide an emotional balance in the home or office.

Asides from symbolising beauty, the Sweet Alyssum is said to protect an individual from heated encounters.

A great option for those who are a little down in the dumps and require an instant pick-me-up.

romantic flowers

8. White Clover

The clover flower suggests feelings of vitality, and it is conventionally given to those who need a little good luck.

romantic flowers

9. Cherry Blossom

These picture-perfect flowers signify spirituality and boast cultural roots in both Japan and China.

In the latter, this particular bloom portrays femininity and in Japan, the nature of life.

romantic flowers

10. Azalea

These aesthetically pleasing flowers are a great addition to any bouquet, especially if you’re searching for romantic flowers. These beautiful blooms depict femininity and are often gifted to a partner or loved one.

romantic flowers

 

If you’re considering making a romantic gesture with flowers anytime soon, we’d love to hear about which blooms you go for, and the reaction you get.

https://www.serenataflowers.com/pollennation/15-romantic-flowers-meanings/

How to Attract Birds

Overview of the Four Requirements for Attracting Backyard Birds

Wild birds require four things to be attracted to a backyard: food, water, shelter and nesting sites. If you make each of these four things available, you will be amazed at how many different species of birds become regular backyard guests.

Food

A good food source is the most important thing you need to attract birds. Food sources can be naturally occurring or supplemental sources such as feeders. Offering several different foods will attract a greater variety of birds.

Popular foods to attract birds include:

  • Seeds
  • Nectar
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Scraps
  • Nuts
  • Suet

Not all foods will attract the same birds. For the best results, learn which birds are present in your local area and choose foods to attract them to your yard. Once your yard is a popular feeding site, more unusual species will become curious and you can offer them treats as well.

Water

Water is critical to birds’ survival and adding water to your backyard will quickly attract birds. Types of water features that are attractive to birds are:

  • Bird baths
  • Misters
  • Ponds
  • Waterfalls
  • Streams

Moving or flowing water will attract the most birds because it is more visible and they can hear it from a great distance. Water should be kept fresh and clean, but no chemicals should be used to purify water because they can be harmful to birds.

Birds also need water in the winter. A heated bird bath will provide drinkable water that birds do not have to use body heat to melt first. Heaters can be added to regular bird baths or special heated baths can be used.

Shelter

Birds will not stay in a location where they do not feel safe, and adding backyard features that can offer them shelter will help attract them to your yard and keep them there once they have found it. Common bird shelters include:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Scrub brush piles
  • Overgrown grassy areas

Provide shelter at different levels for birds that prefer both high and low shelters. More dense plant growth is popular with small and medium bird species, while larger birds prefer perches where they can scan nearby areas for predators and other dangers. Shelter near feeders is especially popular since birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while feeding.

Many plants can also serve as food sources for birds, so choosing plantings wisely can not only provide shelter but will also entice birds with a natural food source.

Nesting Sites

For permanent guests, it is necessary to provide nesting sites for backyard birds. Many birds prefer to nest in natural locations, but manmade sites can also be attractive and may be easier for birders to enjoy. Nesting sites can include:

  • Trees and shrubs for natural nesting sites
  • Simple nesting boxes
  • Functional or decorative birdhouses
  • A brush pile for ground nesters

Different birds build different types of nests, from twig piles to dangling cups. For the best results, learn what types of nests your regular backyard birds prefer and offer nesting sites that are suitable for their needs.

By providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites, you can attract birds to your yard and invite them to take up residence.

http://birding.about.com/od/attractingbirds/a/attractoverview.htm

Growing flowering plants from seed: Easier than you think!

Do you envision your garden to be a lush haven with an abundance of healthy plants and colorful flowers, with a constant show of hardy perennials and cheery annuals? Or do you see your dream garden filled with an abundance of vegetables and herbs, including some of the popular heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers or eggplant? Whatever your dreams and plans for your outdoor space, you can get started with a simple, fun and inexpensive method – grow your own

Starting plants from seeds simply requires a little forethought and planning. You need to lay out a timetable, working back from the last expected frost date in your area. The individual seed packets you choose will give detailed instructions, including how many weeks ahead of the last frost to plant, planting depth, how long the seeds take to germinate and when the new shoots will be hardy enough to be planted outdoors.

Your local garden center or nursery is sure to carry a broad selection of seeds from reputable companies, as well as everything else you need to get going.

You will need:

  1. Planting containers or trays with individual “cells” or cups to hold the planting medium and seeds, with something to cover them once planted. Some come with covers, or you can just use sheets of plastic.
  1. Planting medium. Use a soiless planting mix. It should be sterilized, have good water retention and be lightweight enough for tender sprouts to push their way through the surface, all characteristics not found in average garden soil.
  1. Seeds. Obtain the best seeds possible. The choices today are limitless and each year more and more organic and heirloom seeds are available.
  1. Labels to identify the seeds in each tray. Strips of plastic written with permanent markers work well.
  1. Water. The planting medium needs to stay moist – don’t overwater or allowing seeds to dry out. This is probably the most critical aspect of the germination process but can be learned easily with a little practice.
  1. Light. Natural or artificial light is vital, but you needn’t have to rig up expensive grow lights. A bright south-facing window is perfect.
  1. Warmth. Most seeds need a constant temperature of 65-70º F to properly germinate. 

Be sure to follow the directions on the packet carefully, for each type of seed. Check on them each day to control moisture, light and temperature. Before long, you will experience the thrill of spotting the first signs of germination – tiny sprouts rising through the planting medium!

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to leaf out, you can harden them off by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day. After four or five days getting acclimated in this manner, they can be planted in their rightful place and begin beautifying your garden! And you will have gained a new and rewarding skill. But watch out – pouring over those enticing seed catalogues can be addictive!

10 Houseplants That Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

January 10th is “Houseplant Appreciation Day”. In honor of this little-known holiday, we wanted to take a closer look at the top ten houseplants that have the ability to naturally improve the air quality in your home.

All of these indoor houseplants were analyzed by NASA in 1989. They found that each had a unique way to naturally cleanse the air of toxins that have a negative effect to your health. To read the full report from NASA, please visit this link. In case you didn’t want to read through NASA’s paper, we’ve summarized the top ten houseplants that act as natural air purifiers.

If you don’t have an air purifier in your home, or just want to take extra precautions, we would recommend adding a few of these houseplants to the most important areas of your home. It’s a great first step to improving the air quality inside your home.

Spathiphyllum - Peace Lily

1. Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

Often referred to as a Peace Lily, this beautiful evergreen plant is widely regarded to be easy to care for, even for those that don’t have a green thumb. They require very little light or water to remain healthy, which is one of the main reasons why they’re one of the most popular plants to keep in your home. In fact, Spathiphyllum should never be put in direct sun light, as the rays of sun may lead to leaf burn. While they are great to have inside your home, they also work remarkably well as a groundcover around your home, especially in areas where grass is hard to grow because of the shade.

NASA’s analysis of indoor houseplants revealed that the Peace Lily was the most efficient at removing airborne Volatile Organic Compounds, including formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene. Simply put it in a dark corner, give it water once a week and this little plant will help purify the air around that general area.

The major downside of Spathiphyllum, however, is that it is mildly toxic to both humans and pets. If you ingest any part of this plant, you may start to feel nauseous, experience difficulty when swallowing, or feel a burning sensation in your mouth or skin. If you start to feel any of these symptoms as a result of ingesting Spathiphyllum then it would be wise to seek medical help immediately.


Chrysanthemum Morifolium

2. Chrysanthemum morifolium (Florist’s Chrysanthemum)

Sometimes called Florist’s daisy or Hardy Garden Mum, this houseplant is another popular perennial plant that people like to have in their home. Unlike the Peace Lily, this houseplant loves direct sunlight and a medium amount of water.

With the proper care and right type of soil, the Chrysanthemum morifolium will start to produce lots of beautiful blooms of various colors. These blooms not only help brighten the room, they also help cleanse the air of many chemicals that are common in homes. These include formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.

Words of caution on this houseplant. While they are beautiful to have around, they are also poisonous to animals. If your dog or cat has ingested any part of this plant, they will likely experience diarrhea, dermatitis, vomiting and a lack of coordination. If your pet has consumed this plant, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Epipremnum aureum

3. Epipremnum aureum (Devil’s Ivy)

Often called Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos, this popular houseplant is native to the Soloman Islands, but is can be found growing all over the world. With evergreen vines and small green heart-shaped leaves marbled with yellowish-white hues, this houseplant is commonly sold in decorative hanging baskets. It is best to keep Epipremnum aureum near a window, without direct sunlight shining down on it. The soil should be peaty with lots of moisture.

It’s one of the most popular houseplants not only because it looks good in your home, but also because it’s extremely easy to care for. The most important benefit of Epipremnum aureum is that it is quite efficient at cleansing the air of pollutants, such as benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and formaldehyde.

However, this is another plant that can be toxic when ingested, especially for your pets. If you think your dog or cat has ingested part of this plant, they will likely experience vomiting, irritation and difficulty swallowing. Seek the advice of your veterinarian if you believe your pet has consumed this plant.


Dracaena reflexa

4. Dracaena reflexa (Red-Edged Dracaena)

Often called Red-Edged Dracaena or Pleomele, Dracaena reflexa is an upright evergreen shrub that produces narrow green, yellow or cream-colored leaves. Once the plant starts to mature, you may notice small white flowers start to bloom, shortly followed by small red-orange berries.

This low-maintenance plant is extremely popular in America not just because it looks cool, but also because it takes little work to keep it alive. All you need to do to keep this plant alive, is keep it in an area with indirect sunlight and keep the soil slightly moist.

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena reflexa is one of the most efficient plants at removing formaldehyde from the air in your home, as well as other VOCs, including benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene. However, keep your pets away from this plant, as it can be toxic to animals when ingested.


Sansevieria trifasciata

5. Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake Plant)

Often referred to as Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, this evergreen perennial plant is another houseplant that is known to improve your indoor air quality. According to NASA, it is one of the best houseplants for absorbing airborne toxins, including formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene.

Even though it is native to Western Africa, Sansevieria trifasciatahas risen in popularity over the last few decades and is now widely grown all over the world. It’s a great plant to have indoors, as it can endure low amounts of light at long durations. However, it prefers to have plenty of bright light. Just make sure you don’t overwater this plant, as it is likely to rot if the soil is too moist for too long.

If you have no houseplants around your home, then Sansevieria trifasciata is one of the best for you to start off with. They grow well both inside and out, and they require very little maintenance. Just be careful if you have pets, as this plant may be toxic when it is ingested.


Rhapis excelsa

6. Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm)

Most commonly called the Lady Palm or Broadleaf Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsais another houseplant that would be beneficial to have around your home.

With a maximum height of approximately six feet, Rhapis excelsa is the perfect fan palm to have in a dark corner of your home. They are able to tolerate low-levels of light, high amounts of water and a wide range of temperatures. While this houseplant does prefer to live in moist soil, it does need to have the proper drainage available to avoid root rot.

Native to Asia, this evergreen perennial small palm can thrive in both indoor and outdoor environments. The best part, is that the NASA Clean Air Study discovered Rhapis excelsa to be one of the best houseplants at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene.


Anthurium andraeanum

7. Anthurium andraeanum (Flamingo Lily)

Most commonly called a Flamingo Lily or Laceleaf, Anthurium andraeanum is a beautiful evergreen plant that is most known for its gorgeous flowers. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, the Flamingo Lily was incredibly effective at removing airborne formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene and xylene in your home or office.

Unfortunately, Anthurium andraeanum isn’t the easiest plant to grow indoors. It is definitely not for those that don’t have a green thumb. If you decide to grow this houseplant, be sure you give it plenty of indirect light. The blooms love to soak in the rays, and you’ll be rewarded for weeks with their beauty. The hard part about this houseplant, is that it prefers high-humidity environments. If relative humidity falls below 50%, your plant may start to die. Having a humidifier in your home is the easiest way to avoid this. You also want to make sure the soil stays moist at all times.

Please note, Anthurium andraeanum is poisonous to both humans and animals. Caution must be taken with small children and pets. If they ingest any part of this plant, they will immediately start to have difficulty swallowing, horseness and blistering in their mouth and throat. If you experience any of these symptoms, please seek medical help immediately.


Hedera helix - English Ivy

8. Hedera helix (English Ivy)

Often called English Ivy or European Ivy, Hedera helix is another popular houseplant that helps filter airborne toxins inside your home. According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, English Ivy is effective at cleansing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air. Additionally, other studies have indicated that English Ivy also helps reduce mold in your home.

This evergreen climbing vine is extremely popular in outdoor landscaping. You may have seen it used as ground-cover in areas where grass doesn’t grow, or perhaps climbing up the side of a wall or tree trunk. Because of its “carefree” nature, it has grown in popularity over the years. However due to it spreading aggressively, horticulturists say you should be hesitant in using it outside and should only keep it as an indoor plant. This prevents it from invading other plants around your home, and has the added benefit of purifying the air in your home.

Caring for Hedera helix is relatively easy. Keep it at a constant temperature, give it plenty of direct sunlight and water generously with well-drained soil. If you can do these three things, English Ivy will return the love with cleaner air in your home.


Gerbera jamesonii - Barberton Daisy

9. Gerbera jamesonii (Barberton Daisy)

Most commonly known as a Barberton Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii is a beautiful flowering plant that is native to Eastern Africa. While it is intended and mainly used for outdoor use, it is becoming more popular to put them in containers for indoor use. This may be a wise decision for your indoor air quality, as NASA’s Clean Air Study found that Gerbera jamesonii is effective at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

Barberton daisy’s prefer full sun, plenty of water and well-drained soil. If you try to use this as an indoor houseplant, make sure you have it in an area that has plenty of natural light. It also thrives in moist soil. Be sure to keep the soil moist as often as possible, without over-watering it. Gerbera jamesonii is able to withstand a wide range of temperatures, so you don’t need to be concerned with keep your home at a specific temp.


Ficus benjamina - Weeping Fig

10. Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig)

Most commonly known as a Weeping Fig or Ficus tree, Ficus benjamina is popular houseplant that is also very effective at purifying the air in your home. According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, Ficus benjamina was effective at cleansing airborne formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

This low-maintenance, evergreen plant grows well both inside and out. If you use it as a houseplant, place it in an area that has plenty of bright indirect natural light. If you place it directly in the sun, it’s possible that the leaves will burn. Water it frequently, but to avoid root rot allow the soil to dry before adding more water. Ficus benjamina grows the best in higher temperatures, much like you would have in your home, as well as relative humidity levels above 50%.

Please note: this plant is poisonous to animals. If you have pets, especially dogs and cats, you may want to take extra precautions to make sure they do not ingest any part of this plant. If they do ingest Ficus benjamina, they will likely experience the following symptoms: vomiting, salivation, and oral irritation. Seek help from your veterinarian immediately.

Article sourced from: https://learn.allergyandair.com/houseplants-indoor-air-quality/

How to Make Your Own Terrarium

Terrariums are a beautiful addition to desks, dining room tables, and other well-lit spots. Check out our easy step-by-step instructions to learn how to plant a terrarium.

Perk Up Your Indoor Space

Add a little green to your indoor space with an eye-catching terrarium! Not only are they a great oxygen booster, terrariums are easy to create and can be made in a variety of sizes. Change up the container to fit into any décor.

10 Tasks to Keep Your Garden Growing this Winter

Winter is certainly the time to dream, plan and prepare for next year’s garden, but there are a number of tasks you can do out in the garden to keep it growing well through the winter months. Let’s take a look at ten ways to maintain your green thumb through the coldest time of year.

1. Dream, scheme and plan for next season.
Winter is the time of year when we reflect on how our gardens grew and hunt for ideas on what to do differently next year. Look through the garden photos and notes you’ve taken, then make a list of plants that need to be moved, divided or replaced. Search for solutions about how to improve your soil, how to combat the Japanese beetles that turned your roses into swiss cheese, and any other issues that have popped up in the garden. Make a list of the new plants you’d like to try. Once spring hits you’ll want to get out into the garden, so take care of these things now.

2. Pre-order seeds, bulbs and plants for spring.
Plant catalogs for gardeners are what the Toys “R” Us catalog is to children. Grab your highlighter and start marking your must-haves for next spring, or go online to pre-order plants, seeds and bulbs. Organize your new orders and the seed packets you have left over from last year so you’ll know exactly what you have to add to the garden in spring.

3. Design a new garden bed, path or feature.
You don’t have to be an artist to roughly sketch out a new feature you’d like to add to your garden next season. But if drawing isn’t your thing, try gathering pictures from Pinterest or Houzz that illustrate what you want to accomplish. Maybe you’d like to add a raised bed or portable garden near your patio, or grow a mailbox garden. Now is the time to start looking for a landscape contractor who can help you accomplish these goals. Get on their list now or risk being at the back of the line come spring.

4. Organize your shed or garage.

If it’s not too cold where you live, winter can be a great time to haul all of your gardening supplies out and organize them. Clean out the dirt you’ve brought in with your shovels all season and take down all the spiderwebs. Evaluate each item before moving it back in; make a “keep” and “donate or sell” pile and stick to it. Add more shelving and hooks for tools if it will help to keep you more organized.

5. Sharpen and oil your tools.
While you have all your tools hauled out of storage, take the time to sharpen and oil your pruners, hedge shears, loppers, shovels, mower blades, and anything else that might require maintenance. Use steel wool to remove the rust from the blades and hinges, and oil them well to prevent future rust from developing. When it’s time to head back out into the garden in spring, you’ll be happy to have nice, sharp tools to work with.

6. Check stored bulbs and tubers for mold and moisture.
If you are storing any dormant bulbs or tubers like canna lilies, elephant ears, or tuberous begonias, open the container once per month to make sure no mold has developed and they are staying adequately moist. Discard any moldy roots immediately so they don’t affect the others, and mist any desiccated roots with water before returning them to storage.

7. Water any containerized plants you are overwintering outdoors under cover.

As with bulbs and tubers, it’s important to keep the roots of any plants you are overwintering in containers outdoors under cover adequately moist. If the soil isn’t frozen, water them lightly or add a layer of snow on top about once per month. Even though the plants are not actively growing, you don’t want their roots to become desiccated to the point where they can no longer absorb moisture and nutrients.

8. Reapply mulch or lay evergreen boughs over sensitive plants in the garden.
Newly planted perennials, young broadleaf evergreens like azaleas, or plants that are borderline hardy in your zonebenefit greatly from winter mulch. By insulating the plants’ roots and shielding their foliage from winter winds, you increase the likelihood they will survive the winter and won’t heave out of the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. Be sure to remove this winter mulch in early spring so the plants can start to grow again.

Photo courtesy of Curtis Adams.

9. Reapply animal repellents, if necessary.
Once the leafy green foliage and fall fruits are gone, deer, rabbits and other garden pests turn to woody plants and roots for food. After all, they need to eat in winter too. Pay close attention to the bark and base of young trees and low-branched shrubs, and evergreen plants of all kinds, inspecting for signs of damage. Reapply animal repellent to prevent further damage through the winter months.

10. Maintain heated water features and bird baths.
If you’ve installed a heater in your pond or bird bath to provide a fresh water source for birds over the winter, keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t icing over. Heaters are notorious for going out in the coldest months, and you want to keep your prize koi fish safe and the birds hydrated. If ice does form across the pond, gently make a hole or pour hot water over an area to break it up so that oxygen can continue to flow.

Article courtesy Proven Winners®